I found beautiful white subway tiles that are very inexpensive

julia42April 14, 2014

I've scoured Gardenweb reading every thread about trying to find beautiful white subway tiles on a budget, and it seems like I'm not the only one looking for these, so I thought I'd share....

Like many people here, I had sort of had my heart set on a crackle tile, but had a hard time finding any that fit my budget (maybe the Horus Tiffany...). I went by Emser Tile to look at their Cape Cod series. It was beautiful, but while I was there, I really fell in love with their Semplice Tile. Has anyone else used this tile? It isn't crackle, but it has a subtle irregularity to the edges that give it a handmade feel without the crackle. The tiles are nice and thick, too. The limitations are that it only comes in white and cream (gloss and matte).

I asked the representative about the cost per square foot and he said it runs about $3.50 - $3.75 per square foot. Honestly, I thought I must have heard wrong. Really, I think it is an amazing tile, even for much more than that. It will probably be my backsplash, unless I end up with Absolute Black granite and decide it would be too neutral (I'm going to have white cabinets, also).

I'm curious if anybody else has used this tile. If so, I'd love to see your pictures. I think the photos for the line on the Emser website are almost laughable - you can barely even see the tile. But I'd love to see more photos of it installed.

Here is a link that might be useful: Emser Semplice

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That looks like like nice tile, and the price is amazing. I would only offer one word of caution. Like many, I also have a subway backsplash. My tiles have a less handmade look, but there is still a *very* slight irregularity to the edges. It looks fabulous, until I turn on the under cabinet lights. Then those slight irregularities that look so charming turn into the dreaded lippage and cast unfortunate shadows.

I think one of the problems is that my lights are installed flush with the wall and are right over the backsplash. I think if I moved them forward a bit the shadows would be less harsh. Your tile might be fine, but remember to consider the irregularities with respect to UCL.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 10:27AM
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Linelle, Could you post a picture with your lights on? I'm curious. I had thought of UCL accentuating the irregularities, but I imagined it looking nice, rather than bad. I had thought I would like the added texture of the shadows...

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 11:23AM
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Thanks for the link

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 11:29AM
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julia, here ya go. It's noon here and the UCL light is not as dramatic.

Lights off:

Lights on:

Tile behind stove with hood lights on:

So, it doesn't look so nice, does it? Rather it doesn't with the UCL. The range hood lights, which are set forward and bright halogen do not show anything amiss. That's why I think if I brought the UCLs forward, it would mitigate the problem. Unfortunately they cab boxes were painted with the lights in place (don't ask, nobody was even thinking of potential issues with tile lippage).

As you can see, the tiles have a hand-made-ish look to them, but they're clearly not, since all the irregularities are in fact regular. It's entirely possible that a very astute and clever tile person could set and grout the tiles perfectly. I had the tile boss out to look at things and he convinced me that replacing offending tiles wouldn't make any difference.

On the other hand, UCL light placement could make all the difference. If I were you, I'd make up a sample board with at least a square foot of tile. Then shine lights from above and see how it all looks.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 3:21PM
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Sorry, but from the above photos I wouldn't use this particular tile.

I installed Horace Tiffany crackle tile and bought it from buytile.com at a very reasonable price. I'd go with that if I were you.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 4:17PM
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Hmm. That is kind of a bummer. Although my UCL will be installed at the cabinet fronts. Linelle, do you know what tile it is that you have? It's something other than the Emser Semplice I was looking at, isn't it?

They had a sample board at Emser. Maybe I'll bring my flashlight along and see what they look like...

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 4:41PM
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Wow, Linelle! Those 2 pics really highlight the difference. I had a similar problem. Went with Rixi crackle in the butter yellow shade, and when my undercab LEDs went in, they gave it this awful greenish cast. I need to do some research into changing the LEDs but I have just been so relieved to get the kitchen done, I haven't yet addressed it. But again, it is a significant issue.

Here is a pic -- normal halogen lights under the range hood, and the LEDs left and right -- though the camera lens makes the green glare more noticeable than it is in real life. Still, it proves you cannot be too careful in considering undercab lighting and placement when dealing with a reflective tile.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 5:55PM
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needinfo and julia, mine isn't the Emser tile. It's Sonoma Stellar crackle tile. Although I love it, except for the UCL issue, so that would probably stop me from using it as a backsplash.

When my lights went in, there was no backsplash. They're fluorescent but have a nice warm light. Loved them. After everything else was done, the backsplash went in. I do think moving the lights forward would substantially eliminate the problem.

MizLizzie, UCLs are weird. First ones my contractor put in were xenon and they cast pyramids of light. I thought LEDs made beautiful light. My favorite lights in my kitchen are the halogens from the range hood. It's bright and beautiful and most of the time the only light I need.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 7:14PM
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linelle: I have the Sonoma Star Tribeca which is very similar to the Stellar. Our tiles are handcrafted which is why they are uneven like that. I think that slight unpredictability is what makes these tiles beautiful - they have an Arts and Crafts look and sensibility.

This is how Sonoma describes it: "Shade, Texture, color, and size variation are inherent characterizes of Sonoma StellarâÂÂs handcrafted tile."

It's definitely a different look than the perfectly manufactured rectangle of, for example, Rittenhouse Square.

Also, my lights are way in the back so I am sure every imperfection sticks out like a sore thumb, which is what I paid extra for!.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 7:48PM
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jerzeegirl, your backsplash looks fantastic! I don't see any lippage shadows in your photo. I think there's a difference between a handcrafted look and a design flaw. The Stellar line is their least expensive, about $12/sq.ft. I thought it wasn't a true handcrafted tile. I mean, look at my photo that shows the lippage. There is a place in the corner that is just the same on all the tiles, although some are upside-down. Are yours 3x6 or larger?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 8:01PM
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Thanks, linelle! I have some lippage and some unevenness of line but it's really just the nature of the beast. I tried to find a close up photo where you can see clearly. Look at the bottom row to the left.

I just remembered something that maybe is relevant - My UCL (leds) have dimmers and I have them at about half intensity so maybe it's not causing shadows which is why it's less obvious.

I think your tile is beautiful and that it's just a matter of tweaking your lighting to minimize the shadows. What you don't see can't bother you!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 8:42PM
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Pretty, pretty. Love those dark liners. I don't see any lippage on yours. Lippage sounds so shameful. :p

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 8:51PM
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Linelle, you have handcrafted tile, which results in tiles that are neither flat nor square. This irregularity is what makes them so beautiful. Your problem is not in the tile, but rather in the installation. The grout joints in handcrafted tile need to be larger than the joints for machine-made tiles. The more irregular the tile is, the larger the joint needs to be.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 12:15AM
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Catbuilder, too bad we missed the boat on this. Despite the installation causing lippage when the UCLs are on, the tile *is* beautiful and the crackle sublime. I am now better informed. That happens when you follow this board. :)

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 1:17AM
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I'm wondering what is the reason for the lights to be placed so far back? We just put our UCL in and it seemed to provide way better light on the counter pulled to the front of the cabs.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 2:03AM
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Thank you, Catbuilder, for the advice on the grout lines, too. That will be very useful information if I end up going with a tile that has a handcrafted look. I'm going to pick up samples today and try the flashlight test on their boards...

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 8:15AM
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deedles, my kitchen was done before I knew anything about kitchens. :) I heard a lot about placing UCLs so that their light would wash down the backsplash and make everything look all pretty and Houzzy. I decided to do that without thinking about tile or how light would best be used. Lippage notwithstanding, mine provide excellent light positioned in the back. Another thing, I used my old boxes with just a little edge in front, not a true light rail, so I was thinking about the fixtures' visibility.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:03AM
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Also, Linelle, I should say that I really love the look of your tile when the light isn't shining directly over them. They are beautiful.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:11AM
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